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Film Descriptions


New Korean Cinema

The main section of the festival presents a panorama of recent Korean films, from popular blockbusters to independent gems.

Cart movie poster

Cart 카트

Friday, May 8, 7 pm, F|S

Inspired by actual events that caused an uproar in Korea a few years ago, Cart tells a story of social injustice as relevant in the United States as it is there. When several women are unfairly laid off from a big box supermarket, they unionize and fight to get their jobs back—only to be met with everything from legal threats to armed thugs from their corporate opponents. Returning from a five-year hiatus after her directorial debut, Sisters on the Road, Boo Ji-young creates a populist, humanist, and very entertaining film that exemplifies the difficulties faced by women on the lower rungs of the workforce. (Dir.: Boo Ji-young, Korea, 2014, 104 min., HDCAM)

The Pirates movie poster

The Pirates 해적: 바다로 간 산적

Monday, May 11, 9:30 pm, AFI

Wednesday, May 13, 9:30 pm, AFI

One of the biggest Korean box office hits of last year, this swashbuckling tale is set in 1388, at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty. When a whale swallows the emperor’s royal golden seal, the promise of a reward brings out a host of adventure-seeking rascals—including Yeo-wol (Son Ye-jin), a fierce female pirate, and the Robin Hood-like bandit Jang Sa-jung (Kim Man-gil), who proves to be her perfect foil in love and war. Full of dazzling battle scenes and gorgeous underwater photography, The Pirates has been hailed as Korea’s own Pirates of the Caribbean. (Dir.: Lee Seok-hoon, Korea, 2014, 130 min., DCP)

Miracle in Cell No. 7 movie poster

Miracle in Cell No. 7 7번방의 선물

Monday, May 18, 9:15 pm, AFI

Wednesday, May 20, 9:15 pm, AFI

Mixing tragedy, family drama, and hilarious physical gags, Miracle in Cell No. 7 stars several of Korea’s most talented character actors. The film centers on a mentally handicapped father who is wrongly convicted of murder and sent to death row. When his cellmates realize his plight, they arrange to repeatedly sneak his adorable six-year-old daughter into their cell. A bond develops between them all. Later in life, the daughter, now a lawyer, seeks redemption for her father’s reputation. Resistance is futile when it comes to this unashamedly heartstring-tugging comedy that was Korea’s sleeper hit of 2013. (Dir.: Lee Hwan-kyung, Korea, 2013, 127 min., DCP)

Confession movie poster

Confession 좋은 친구들

Tuesday, May 26, 9:15 pm, AFI

Thursday, May 28, 9:30 pm, AFI

In Lee Do-yoon’s noir-inflected directorial debut, three childhood friends’ bonds are tested when they are asked to stage a robbery on behalf of one of their mothers. As Giovanna Fulvi of the Toronto International Film Festival writes of the thriller, “Lee accelerates the pace, alternating between bracing action sequences and arresting close-ups. His style revels in the gloss of hard-boiled crime fiction, but also digs beneath the surface to flesh out the inner turmoil of his characters, smartly scrutinizing conventional notions of masculinity and loyalty.” (Dir.: Lee Do-yoon, Korea, 2014, 114 min., DCP)

Man on High Heels movie poster

Man on High Heels 하이힐

Friday, May 29, 7 pm, F|S: Director Jang Jin in person!

Monday, June 15, 9:15 pm, AFI

Wednesday, June 17, 9:15 pm, AFI

Director Jang Jin (Murder, Take One; Guns and Talks) has made a career of cleverly subverting genre movie tropes, and Man on High Heels is no exception. He blends explosive action scenes with sly humor in this send-up of the Korean gangster movie genre. Cha Seung-won plays a macho homicide detective so tough he can defeat a roomful of gangsters with his bare hands and emerge without a scratch. But he has one secret: He’s a woman trapped in a man’s body and is preparing to get a longed-for sex change operation when a ruthless gang comes seeking revenge. Also playing at AFI on June 15 and 17 at 9:15 pm. (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2014, 125 min., DCP)

We Are Brothers movie poster

We Are Brothers 우리는 형제입니다

Saturday, May 30, 2 pm, F|S: Director Jang Jin in person!

Monday, June 1, 9 pm, AFI

Wednesday, June 3, 9:20 pm, AFI

Satire specialist Jang Jin pokes fun at everything from reality TV to organized religion in this comedy. Two brothers, separated as children when one of them was adopted by an American family, are reunited on a tear-jerking talk show. When their dementia-suffering mother wanders off during filming, the brothers—one now a devout Christian, the other a Korean shaman—go on a wild goose chase across Korea, accompanied by an ever-present camera crew. Also playing at AFI on June 1 at 9 pm and June 3 at 9:20 pm. (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2014, 101 min.)

Quiz Show movie poster

Quiz Show Scandal 퀴즈왕

Sunday, May 31, 2 pm, F|S

In person: Jang Jin, director

During a police interrogation following a multi-car pileup, four drivers accidentally learn the winning answer to an upcoming episode of a popular quiz show—with a prize worth more than $10 million. Jang Jin uses this brilliantly absurd premise as a springboard for a wide-ranging comic satire of Korean society, from big business corruption to blind nationalism. Quiz Show Scandal is stocked with eccentric characters and bookended by two tour-de-force set pieces. “It’s a great concept, and Jang handles his talented ensemble with a superb sense of fun” (Russell Edwards, Variety). (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2010, 119 min., Digibeta)

Haemoo movie poster

Haemoo 해무

Friday, June 5, 7 pm, F|S

Produced and cowritten by the internationally renowned Bong Joon-ho (director of Snowpiercer and The Host), Haemoo is based on a popular play that was itself inspired by true events. After a disappointing catch, the crew of a rundown fishing boat agrees to transport 30 illegal Chinese immigrants. A shocking and tragic accident occurs, and the crew must decide just how much their cargo’s lives are worth—and how far they’ll go to protect themselves from prosecution. The title, which translates to “sea fog,” refers to a nautical phenomenon that can trap ships at sea; here, it serves as a metaphor for the moral fog in which its characters find themselves. “It's a gripping ride … with powerful imagery, a simple and accessible story and a stellar performance from Kim Yoon-seok (the star of The Yellow Sea and The Thieves, no less) as a captain slowly spiraling towards madness” (Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter). (Dir.: Shim Sung-ho, Korea, 2014, 110 min., DCP)

Ode to My Father movie poster

Ode to My Father 국제시장

Monday, June 8, 7 pm, AFI

Wednesday, June 10, 7 pm, AFI

This sweeping melodrama looks at a half-century of Korean history through the eyes of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary times. Separated from his beloved sister during a harrowing evacuation from North Korea during the Korean War, Deok-su (Hwang Jun-min) works his way from the coastal city of Busan to the coalmines of Germany and the battlefields of Vietnam, all the while hoping to reunite with his family. Also starring Yunjin Kim of the hit TV shows Lost and Mistresses, this emotionally stirring, patriotic tale clearly resonated with Korean audiences, who made it one of the biggest hits of last year. (Dir.: Yoon Je-kyoon, Korea, 2014, 126 min., DCP)

Hill of Freedom movie poster

Hill of Freedom 자유의 언덕

Sunday, June 14, 2 pm, F|S

In the latest film from the prolific Hong Sang-soo (In Another Country, Woman on the Beach), a young woman named Kwon begins reading a packet of letters that have fallen out of order. The film depicts what she reads, leaping back and forth in time to tell the story of the relationship between Kwon and the writer, Mori (Ryo Kase, Letters from Iwo Jima, Like Someone in Love), a Japanese man who has returned to Korea to search for her. Like all of Hong’s films, Hill of Freedom is a smart, witty puzzle involving time, romance, humor, and politics. “I don’t hesitate to apply the M-word—masterwork—to this new film” (Richard Brody, The New Yorker). (Dir.: Hong Sang-soo, Korea, 2014, 67 min., DCP, Korean and English with English subtitles)

Miss Granny

Miss Granny 수상한 그녀

Tuesday, June 23, 7 pm, AFI

Wednesday, June 24, 9 pm, AFI

A grandmother wanders into a mysterious photo studio and emerges transformed into her 20-year-old self in this mix of music, comedy, and fantasy. Renaming herself Oh Doo-ri (in honor of Audrey Hepburn), she sets off to reclaim her lost youth, going so far as to join her unwitting grandson’s band to revive the musical career she once had to abandon. Best known for the somber drama Silenced, director Hwang Dong-hyuk said of this film, “I am a fun person. This time I really wanted to make a happy and light film.” (Dir.: Hwang Dong-hyuk, Korea, 2014, 124 min., DCP)

A Hard Day movie poster

A Hard Day 끝까지 간다

Tuesday, June 23, 9:30 pm, AFI

Thursday, June 25, 9 pm, AFI

Homicide detective Go Geon-soo’s (Lee Sun-kyun) hard day includes being called away from his mother’s funeral to deal with an embezzlement investigation at work. On the way, he commits an apparently fatal hit-and-run—and that’s just the beginning of a twist-filled plot that includes blackmail, the creative concealment of corpses, and plenty of action. A Hard Day debuted to critical raves at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Variety’s Maggie Lee credits director Kim Seong-hun with “handling a taut yet elaborately plotted narrative with poise, control and near-faultless technical execution.” As Stephen Dalton of the Hollywood Reporter writes, “Kim's second feature is essentially a genre thriller, but a superior example loaded with smart plot twists, dark humor and high-gloss visuals.” (Dir.: Kim Seong-hun, Korea, 2014, 111 min., DCP)


Busan Selections

The Busan International Film Festival is one of the largest in Asia and a major showcase for Korean films. In a new partnership, the Korean Film Festival DC presents three acclaimed films that debuted at the 2014 festival, highlighting some of Korea’s most talented young filmmakers and performers.

End of Winter movie poster

End of Winter 철원기행

Sunday, June 7, 2 pm, F|S

After celebrating his retirement from teaching at a provincial school, Kim Seong-geum surprises his family by announcing that he’s getting a divorce. A snowstorm prevents his wife and sons from returning to Seoul, and the family is forced to reckon with one another while trapped for two days in his house. This “keenly observed portrait of a family living in a communication vacuum” (Elizabeth Kerr, The Hollywood Reporter) shared the top prize in the Busan International Film Festival’s prestigious New Currents competition. (Dir.: Kim Dae-hwan, Korea, 2014, 102 min., DCP)

The Liar movie poster

The Liar 거짓말

Friday, June 12, 7 pm, F|S

Kim Kkot-bi, one of Korea’s most talented young actresses, gives a “superb lead performance” (Richard Kuipers, Variety) in this compelling drama that exposes the fault lines between Korea’s rich and poor. Kim plays Ah-young, a beauty clinic worker who shares a cramped apartment with her alcoholic sister but imagines herself to be rich. She shops for luxury apartments and fancy cars as if she has the means to buy them, and boasts to her coworkers about a made-up wealthy fiancé who will soon take her away. As her attempts to maintain her fantasy life become more and more complicated, her real life threatens to fall apart. (Dir.: Kim Dong-myung, Korea, 2014, 95 min., DCP)

A Midsummer Fantasia movie poster

A Midsummer’s Fantasia 한여름의 판타지아

Sunday, June 14, 3:30 pm, F|S

This quiet, subtle feature from indie auteur Jang Kun-jae (Sleepless Night) is divided into two parts. The first section, shot in black and white, follows a filmmaker scouting locations in a sleepy Japanese town dominated by the elderly because the younger people have all moved away. In a quasi-documentary style, Jang films the town’s remaining denizens and the young government official trying to get the community back on its feet. Switching to color, the second part is a story invented by the filmmaker in the first half. In it, a young Korean woman explores the same town and enters a flirtatious relationship with one of the few young men left there. The film’s restrained style is in perfect keeping with the languid rhythms of its setting, and the sparse dialogue emphasizes that what is left unsaid often is as important as what stated out loud. (Dir.: Jang Kun-jae, Korea, 2014, 96 min., B&W and color, DCP, Korean and Japanese with English subtitles)


Korean Classic Screening

301, 302 movie poster

301, 302

Sunday, May 17, 2 pm, F|S

The first 100 people entering the auditorium will receive a free copy of the May/June issue of Film Comment magazine.

F|S Curator of Film Tom Vick introduces this stylish, slow-burning thriller, which was featured in a Film Comment magazine feature on the Korean Film Archive’s YouTube collection. Directed by the late Park Chul-soo (who presented his work at the Freer in 2002), 301, 302, was one of the first Korean films to receive a commercial release in the United States. The title refers to the apartment numbers of its two heroines. In 301 lives Song, an amateur chef fond of cooking elaborate meals for herself. Across the hall lives Yun, an anorexic writer. When Yun mysteriously disappears, a detective investigates, and a strange relationship between the two women comes to light. (Dir.: Park Chul-soo, Korea, 1995, 100 min., 35mm)


A Weekend with Jang Jin

In Korea, Jang Jin is famous as a playwright, theater director, movie director, and mastermind of the often-controversial television show Saturday Night Live Korea. Earlier this year, the International Film Festival Rotterdam honored Jang with a retrospective. Tony Rayns wrote that the director “is best known for one thing: satire. He doesn’t respect institutions, powerful individuals or dogmas of any kind. He believes, endearingly, that satirical comedy might change society more effectively than throwing Molotov cocktails.”

Jang visits the Freer|Sackler to present three of his recent films featuring his unique penchant for blending genres and poking fun at Korean society.

Man on High Heels movie poster

Man on High Heels 하이힐

Friday, May 29, 7 pm, F|S

In person: Jang Jin, director

Director Jang Jin (Murder, Take One; Guns and Talks) has made a career of cleverly subverting genre movie tropes, and Man on High Heels is no exception. He blends explosive action scenes with sly humor in this send-up of the Korean gangster movie genre. Cha Seung-won plays a macho homicide detective so tough he can defeat a roomful of gangsters with his bare hands and emerge without a scratch. But he has one secret: He’s a woman trapped in a man’s body and is preparing to get a longed-for sex change operation when a ruthless gang comes seeking revenge. Also playing at AFI on June 15 and 17 at 9:15 pm. (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2014, 125 min., DCP)

We Are Brothers movie poster

We Are Brothers 우리는 형제입니다

Saturday, May 30, 2 pm, F|S

In person: Jang Jin, director

Satire specialist Jang Jin pokes fun at everything from reality TV to organized religion in this comedy. Two brothers, separated as children when one of them was adopted by an American family, are reunited on a tear-jerking talk show. When their dementia-suffering mother wanders off during filming, the brothers—one now a devout Christian, the other a Korean shaman—go on a wild goose chase across Korea, accompanied by an ever-present camera crew. Also playing at AFI on June 1 at 9 pm and June 3 at 9:20 pm. (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2014, 101 min.)

Quiz Show movie poster

Quiz Show Scandal 퀴즈왕

Sunday, May 31, 2 pm, F|S

In person: Jang Jin, director

During a police interrogation following a multi-car pileup, four drivers accidentally learn the winning answer to an upcoming episode of a popular quiz show—with a prize worth more than $10 million. Jang Jin uses this brilliantly absurd premise as a springboard for a wide-ranging comic satire of Korean society, from big business corruption to blind nationalism. Quiz Show Scandal is stocked with eccentric characters and bookended by two tour-de-force set pieces. “It’s a great concept, and Jang handles his talented ensemble with a superb sense of fun” (Russell Edwards, Variety). (Dir.: Jang Jin, Korea, 2010, 119 min., Digibeta)

Korean Film Festival

Dates & Venues
Overview
Schedule
Film Descriptions
Korea Day: A Family Festival
A Weekend with Jang Jin
Explore Korea Year-Round

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